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Blague

1  noun  ˈbläg, -ȧg   plural -s
: HUMBUG, CLAPTRAP, RAILLERY
2  intransitive verb   -ed/-ing/-s
: to talk pretentiously and usually inaccurately : lie boastfully

Show 452, Caroline 452, and more

"...Raise her likeness on the mast / Caroline 452..."

- lyric from 'Radio Silence' by Thomas Dolby


Frames from the video for Thomas Dolby's 'Radio Silence,' displaying close-up photos of radio components, a hand turning an old-fashioned radio tuning dial, Thomas Dolby silhouetted against a portrait of a sculpture of an idealized female head and neck, the character Caroline from the song in her car waiting for a lover, and a marble statue of an idealized woman draped in white netting.

This week's live interactive Phoole & the Gang show, an 80s request show, is Show Number 452.


As I started to put together some of the stuff I need to prepare for a show, I remembered that the tune 'Radio Silence' by Thomas Dolby mentions the number 452! The 'middle twelve' bars before each chorus of the tune contains lyrics referring to "Caroline 452."

It never occurred to me until today to look up exactly what that meant.


WELL! It relates to Phoole & the Gang in a fascinating way. I knew a little bit about UK pirate radio in the 1980s, but not much - and I certainly didn't know about Radio Caroline until today!


Radio Caroline was a pirate radio station in the 1980s with a really interesting history. Pirate stations found ways to keep their transmitters mobile to avoid official detection and shutdown - and they changed radio band frequencies from time to time too, for the same reason.


The tune, narrating moments in the life of a character named Caroline, metaphorically compares lost love to an abandoned pirate radio frequency: Caroline 452.


It's a cool serendipity that's resulted in Phoole & the Gang #452 being a show consisting entirely of 1980s tunes, in a format that is a just only little bit pirate-y.


Tune in!


👾 Smash Hits 📼 Deep Cuts 🎸 Classics 💾 Synthesizers 🎹 Soundtracks of a Past Future 🌆 Friday 25 August 2023 at 6pm Central US time at https://slipmat.io/phoole, https://mixcloud.com/live/phoole & https://twitch.tv/phoole


Winning hand in the CARDS show


Click the video below for a speed-through preview of our most recent show, all about cards!

I'm really enjoying the art-exercise of selecting playlists based on one-word themes. After growing my library to an unmanageable size, this effort helps me dig in and see what I've got, forcing me to explore tunes I've forgotten I had or didn't realize I had.


I've been sewing a lot


I'm making a new motley - a new gown for me to be Jane the Phoole in. And I'm just doing it for the heck of it, for fun. I work on it whenever I have time and energy for it. Working on it without a deadline has been so vastly pleasant. It is a joy to be able to do things slowly and correctly. At the same time, I've made nearly 20 gowns in this silhouette since the 1990s, so a lot of the process now goes much more quickly than it did in the past, because my hands just...know what to do. I have established muscle memory for motley-making.


The motley is in some ways a re-make of a motley I made for myself back in 2003.

Jane the Phoole in a bright red, yellow and green harlequin-diamond-pattern 16th-century-esque motley, standing in front of a gilded circus carriage. On the carriage is a sculpture depicting Cinderella and the Prince, as the Prince is placing Cinderella's lost golden slipper onto her foot for a perfect fit. Jane was instructed by the photographer to adopt a neutral facial expression instead of grinning her characteristic grin.
Photo by Stephen Milanowski. at Milwaukee's lakefront after the Great Circus Parade 2012.

I did the best I could with what materials and knowledge I had at the time back in 2003, which, in hindsight, was not a lot! I began the motley pictured above with an idea from Maurice Sand's illustration of the commedia dell'arte character Arlecchina, an image I had loved obsessively for years.

I wanted to adapt the basic idea of the pictured gown to a vaguely-1570s aesthetic. At the time, I didn't have access to amazing fabric sources - buying fabric online was not yet a commonplace thing, and hunting down decent fabric selection back then meant taking treks to distant larger cities to raid their stockpiles. So I punted and patch-worked together three colors of cheap cotton/polyester trigger.


Back then, I hadn't discovered the incredible world of lucite templates made for quilters, so I made my own diamond-shape templates. This came with its own flavor of disaster - since my template wasn't laser-accurate geometrically, any sequence repeating the shape eventually drifted off the fabric's grain and had to be minutely adjusted every few patches.


I cringe when I think about the agony I went through to make that motley twenty years ago - at one point, I abandoned the project by literally opening a window and throwing the dress out into a dumpster below, and started over from the beginning!


But the long and exhausting hours I put in on that motley paid off handsomely as I launched into this one, with 20 years of improvement in technique behind me now. The new gown has flown together. I am making it with the same basic principle, but with four colo(u)rs instead of three, and using fantastic quilting templates for perfect geometry.


I went into some detail on this project in a previous Blague post - since then, I've built the fabric for all of the parts, finished the bodice and skirt (complete with hand-worked eyelets that match whatever fabric they're worked through, for spiral-lacing on the sides of the busk-fortified stomacher), lined and pleated the skirt, hand-stitched the skirt to the bodice, hand-hemmed the skirt, and made the basic portions of the sleeves and the hat. Remaining to finish are the "dagges" (the pointy little flappy decorative things with the bells attached to them that adorn the shoulders, sleeves and hat crown) and the pudding-cap (or "biggins," the little close-fitting cap that goes under the hat, and...that's it. It will be done.


I finished hemming the skirt during my lunch break from w*rk today. Did it by hand, which is the best way. I prefer for the diamond pattern on the skirt to just end at the ground, so I don't add a "gard" or fabric band wrapping the lower edge of the skirt; it's hemmed on the inside, with the outer fabric layer wrapping up and under and sewn to the lining, which is a peacock-blue crepe-backed satin. The lining is beautiful, AND it will likely never be seen by anyone but me. Here is a picture of Angelo the Cat helping me hem the skirt last night, while I stayed up by my w*rk phone in case anything went off the rails at the political convention that happened in my town last night.

A small white cat lounges on a blue satin dress lining while it is being hemmed. He is a good and helpful cat.
Angelo, helping.

As soon as the motley is done, I will be hitting up my favorite Phooletographer (that's you, Ivan Phillips!) for an autumn photoshoot, so that it gets revealed the right way.


It is the most beautiful set of garments I have ever made in my life. Every part of it - the new lightweight-linen-canvas farthingale, the new, slightly-streamlined Bumrollio, the hat, the sleeves, the gown - is the best work I have ever done. The diamond-wool twill mesmerizes me as I sew it. Its weave is so small, and most people who see the motley will never notice this tiny detail, but it is a little gift for those who do notice it. I'm incredibly proud of this project, and I can't wait until I can wear it in your company and you can enjoy it in person.


That time isn't now, I'm sorry to say. The pandemic never went away, and infection rates are surging. All around me, a majority of people are complaining about " being weirdly sick" and "having a mystery cold" and "being sicker than I've ever been" and "it just doesn't go away." Their doctors won't test them for COVID, but it's it, friends, whether it's an acute initial infection or the everlasting gift left behind by an infection a year or two ago. When real mitigation lands - when there's a vaccine that conclusively prevents infection - I'll be back as Jane at whatever Faires I can find or create. Dig into the COVID-19 resources at phoole.com/links and stay as safe as you can.

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